(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Mankell, who as author or the Kurt Wallander mysteries leads his contemporaries in the bountiful territory of Scandinavian noir, here leaps far into magical realism. Hanna begins life in icy poverty in turn-of-the-20th-century rural Sweden. When her mother insists that she head into the world, Hannah becomes a cook on a ship headed for Australia; she marries an officer, is widowed, jumps ship in Africa, becomes deadly ill at a "hotel," recovers, marries the "hotel's" owner, and is soon widowed again. This time, though, she is left immensely wealthy, and her greatest asset, the "hotel," is actually a flourishing brothel. Soon, Hanna becomes Ana and copes with identity quests (personal, geographic, racial) in a colonial Africa where racism is a given-except that Ana deviates, showing compassionate concern for the black prostitutes, a black woman who murders her white "husband," and an odd "best friend" named Carlos (read the book to find out). Though not initially a page-turner, the book soon becomes one, and vivid descriptions of both lush living and abject poverty abound. The ending? Magical. Verdict For lovers of historical fiction with a twist and of Mankell's oeuvre, although this is more Barry Unsworth (or Joseph Conrad) than Jo Nesbo. [See Prepub Alert, 1/21/13.]-Robert E. Brown, Oswego, NY (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.